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Google’s Equiano subsea cable lands in Nigeria

By Oladeinde Olwatoyin

Google and cable landing partner, WIOCC recently announced the landing of its state-of-the-art Equiano subsea cable, expected to significantly impact demands on Nigeria’s current and future international internet connectivity. The Equiano cable is designed to start from Portugal in Western Europe, run more than 12,000km along the West Coast of Africa and land in Lomé, Togo; Lagos, Nigeria; Swakopmund, Namibia; Rupert’s Bay, Saint Helena, and Melkbosstrand, South Africa.

Google said the project would establish a valuable new high-capacity internet connection between the African continent and Europe. 

Named after Nigerian-born writer and abolitionist, Olaudah Equiano, the Equiano cable will help support further digital transformation in Nigeria, a country that has produced five start-up unicorns (companies valued at more than $1 billion) in the past five years. An impact assessment study by Africa Practice and Genesis Analytics explained that once the state-of-the-art, high-capacity Equiano cable becomes fully operational as anticipated later this year, it would accelerate Nigeria’s digital transformation.

In terms of connectivity, it is expected to increase internet speeds by a factor of six, reduce internet retail prices by 21 per cent, and increase internet penetration by six percentage points. And in terms of economic impact, the cable is projected to boost GDP by US$ 10.1 billion by 2025. It is also projected to boost job creation by 1.6 million jobs by 2025. With regard to sustainability potential, it is expected to save 2.8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per annum. All of these developments would significantly impact Nigeria’s drive towards building a robust digital economy, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said in his remarks at the virtual launch of the cable in Lagos on Thursday, 21 April.

Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu

 

The Nigerian government has stepped up its digital transformation programs since 2017. These initiatives have proved crucial to the success of many industries in the country, especially the startup space. But studies suggest that faster internet connections, better user experiences and reduced internet costs will further accelerate these benefits.

Last month, the Equiano subsea cable made its first landing in Africa in Lomé, Togo, as a confirmation of the commitment made at the Google for Africa 2021 event to help increase internet access across Africa.

Juliet Ehimuan, Director of West Africa at Google commenting on the landing of Equiano in Nigeria said: “Google is committed to supporting Africa’s digital transformation and we are excited to see the impact of the landing of Equiano in Nigeria. We’ve worked with established partners and in-country experts to guarantee that Equiano has the greatest potential effect in Nigeria and throughout Africa. Equiano is set to make an enduring contribution towards the development of Nigeria’s communications infrastructure and today marks another major step in its development. We look forward to honouring our commitment to be part of Africa’s digital transformation.”

Chris Wood, Chief Executive Officer of WIOCC, said: “We are proud to have been selected by Google as the landing partner for the Equiano cable in Nigeria, landing the cable directly into the OADC Lagos data centre. From there it will be extended to other data centres across Lagos. The Equiano cable will deliver improved internet quality, speeds and affordability to the people of Nigeria. However, for the benefits to be fully felt throughout Nigeria, hyper-scale connectivity needs to be extended from the Lagos area to the rest of the country. To make this happen, WIOCC is also deploying a comprehensive, hyper-scale national fibre network. The network will go live in phases, starting in June and continuing through to the end of the year. When combined with the Equiano cable this network will deliver transformational benefits across the country”.

In another development, the World Bank Group has urged Nigeria to rethink its fuel subsidy regime and multiple exchange rates policy. The president of the World Bank Group, David Malpass, made the call during a media briefing at the ongoing World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington DC. The World Bank boss said that resources being expended on the subsidy could be channeled to other sectors of the economy to accelerate growth.

 

Mr. Malpass explained that generalized subsidies have significant negative effects on any system, and the ripple effect isn’t healthy for the economy. “One is that they are expensive because they go to everyone and they are often used by people with upper incomes than by people with lower incomes so they are not targeted. So, we encourage that when there is need for subsidy, either food or for fuel, that it should be carefully targeted at those most in need of it. And so, we have encouraged Nigeria to rethink its subsidy effort,” he said.

The Senate last week approved N4 trillion for petrol subsidy in 2022, following two separate requests by the Nigerian president to the National Assembly. 

Last month, Nigeria’s Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, described the controversial subsidy regime as “a criminal enterprise.” Mr. Sylva, who lamented the controversies surrounding the amount of petrol that the nation consumes daily said the subsidy policy encouraged criminal activities like smuggling which in turn impacts negatively on the nation’s oil resources. Aside from an opaque subsidy regime, Nigeria operates multiple exchange rates, which analysts have blamed for the nation’s investment challenges and weak currency. 

Mr. Malpass noted that multiple exchange rate system is complicated and is not as effective as it would be if there was a single exchange rate. “The most useful thing for developing countries is to have a single exchange rate that is market-based, that is stable over long periods of time as that attracts investment and so that would help,” he said.

He noted that the West African country also faces trade barriers that continue to distort trade and capital flows. He urged the Nigerian government to improve on this so as to help the country and its people move forward and grow the economy.

Speaking on the impact of insecurity on the state of the economy, the World Bank boss noted that the situation is challenging. “I take note of the complicated situation that they face where there are weapons flowing into northern Africa that find their way into some Nigerian states that create violence in that country. This is a very challenging situation that the government faces. I think all over the world, people should have an understanding of the fragility that is facing several parts of the world, but in particular, the Sahel and the Sub-Saharan Africa area where the weapons flow from outside of Africa are putting a great burden on governments around the continent.

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